(Health Secrets) Do we have any Burt’s Bees fans here? Surely you know the story of the quaint little company which started operations in Maine in the 1980s when co-founder Roxanne Quimby started making candles from Burt Shavitz’s leftover beeswax? When Quimby first meet Burt he was living in a 400 square foot converted turkey coop. To say that Burt’s has come a long way since it started, is quite the understatement.
Quimby bought out Burt for a relative pittance in 1993. Soon thereafter Burt’s Bees began going automated. By 1998 sales were $8 Million per year, but that was nothing compared to the giant it would become. In 1999 the company relocated to Durham amongst many other high-tech companies and enterprises in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. In 2004, Quimby sold 80% of Burt’s Bees to the private equity firm AEA Investments for $173,000,000. AEA was founded in 1968 to make investments on behalf of S.G. Warburg & Co. as well as the Rockefeller, Mellon, and Harriman families – not exactly names one usually associates with being “earth friendly”.
In late 2007, the Clorox Company acquired Burt’s Bees for the reported sum of $925,000,000 USD and in 2011 Nick Vlahos, a 15-year veteran of The Clorox Company was named Vice President and General Manager of Burt’s Bees. So, it looks like Quimby and the Warburgs, Rockefellers, et al, made quite the bundles from Burt’s Bees.
Of course the product line has been reformulated along the way, with the more expensive “earth friendly” and healthy ingredients being removed, and the usual cheap chemicals replacing them. For example, before Clorox got its hands on Burt’s Bees popular Grapefruit and Sugar Beet Super Shiny Shampoo, the first ingredient on the label was decyl & lauryl glucosides (natural coconut, corn starch and sugar soap blend). Since the reformulation, the first ingredient is water. This is a big switch, because the first ingredient is the main ingredient, the one used in the largest proportion. The old formulation contained no toxic chemical fragrance; the new formulation is loaded with it. The lemon, tangerine and lime oils that left hair so beautifully shiny and squeaky clean are gone, replaced by phenoxyethanol, a chemical rated 4 (moderately hazardous) by Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic database.
Meanwhile, Burt Shavitz has returned to his turkey coop in rural Maine.
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